The argument surrounding overseas rugby players has existed for a few years, but never so much as recently when Stuart Lancaster came under pressure to select two European Players of the Year in Toulon’s Steffon Armitage and Clermont’s Nick Abendanon.
While I believe the pair are world class, and worthy of the label, you can see why Lancaster stuck to his guns. The rule itself that restricts their selection benefits England more than it hinders it.
In terms of the Rugby World Cup 2015, the pressure to pick the two players came very late in the four-year campaign. It came at a time when England’s squad finally seemed to be settling after a long preparation period that saw players dropped and brought in as Lancaster cut and changed to find his best squad.
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To bring in two players, who knew the consequences of their big money moves would have on their international career, would disrupt the settled team and would potentially make the others question Lancaster’s authority.
Once exceptions were made, more would undoubtedly leave, in the knowledge they would fall into the same category as Armitage and Abendanon.
Good for English rugby
You only have to look to the Pro 12 where players have left, leaving trails of contract issues in their wake and disputes between the regions and the national sides.
The rules itself keeps the Aviva Premiership alive and competitive. It keeps English rugby healthy while nailing down the big international names for paying ticket holders to enjoy.
If the rule were removed, England’s top players would flock to the big money pulls of the French League or the entertainment value of Super Rugby.
This would leave the Premiership bare of any of its current stars. Not only would this remove the entertainment value but it would likely affect the economy of the league as the attraction to visitors would lessen, heavily impacting the money circulating as well as the attendances.
Wage cap benefits
Combined with the wage cap, it keeps English rugby a perfect breeding ground to cultivate up and coming talent. The wage cap keeps teams balanced, and there is no major pull from the larger clubs just to strip smaller clubs of their talent using only their financial clout.
While there are arguments to remove the rule, keeping international hopefuls in England is paramount to keeping the international side up in the upper echelons of international rugby.
To remove it to accommodate only a few players is not worth the floods of England players that would leave the Premiership. So long as the talent stays where it originates, it is onward and upwards.
Do you think a rule like this should be introduced into football? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below.